As a rule, I try not to get too political on this blog. I like to talk about writing and life. Politics is messy and bitter.
Having said that, I just can’t look away from the Minneapolis fiasco, and as a basic human being I can’t help but be outraged.
I know this post may be read long after, so let me start with a recap.
On Monday, May 25, 2020, Memorial day in the United States, a deli in the Powderhorn district of Minneapolis, reported to police that a middle aged black man was attempting to pay with a forged twenty dollar bill. Four police officers converged on the scene and apprehended a man, Floyd George, who was in his car who apparently fit the description. There were two other persons in the car. It is not clear whether George was the actual person or simply fit the description. I assume that will be clarified at some point.
George was ordered out of the car, and apparently reluctant to do so. However, he exited or was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed with his hands behind his back. At some point, he fell down. From this point on, he was laying down, on his stomach, hands cuffed behind his back, with three officers on him. One officer was on his legs, another on his back, and the third, Officer Derek Chauvin, knelt with his knee on George’s neck, for roughly seven to ten minutes. The fourth officer maintained control of the scene, keeping bystanders away.
On several occasions, George complained that he couldn’t breath, claimed discomfort, and asked for help. He begged not to be killed and cried out for his mother. There was a strange conversation, where one of the officers who was physically holding George in place kept instructing him to ‘get in the car’ despite the fact that George was physically immobilized by three officers, including the one kneeling on his neck.
After begging for his life and calling for his mother he fell silent. A number of bystanders complained that the officers were killing George, there were demands or requests to check his pulse. An ambulance was called, by the time it arrived he was dead. The body was moved onto an ambulance gurney and carried away, with no apparent resuscitation efforts made on site at any point by either the officers or ambulance attendants. The officers then departed the scene in their respective patrol cars.
That’s the incident, as clinically as I can describe it. There is a ten and a half minute video of the incident. I have watched it. It is horrific, and I will not link to it. You can find it easily enough. There is apparently at least one other civilian video taken of the incident from a different angle, and some video from surveillance cameras. I don’t know whether these are available.
This next part, I didn’t write. Someone purporting to be a retired police officer wrote this, and I’m quoting him:
“The officers were responding to a call of someone passing a “possible” counterfeit twenty dollar bill. Mr. Floyd matched the description of that person. (Check your wallet, you may have a counterfeit twenty dollar bill in your possession right now. )
The agency charged with investigating counterfeit money is the Secret Service. Normally, in such circumstances, local law enforcement confiscates the counterfeit money, identifies the person in possession and contacts the local Secret Service office. Normally, there is no arrest made with such an insignificant amount.
Now, fast forward to the chain of events that lead to Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, placed on his stomach with three officers controlling his head, upper body and legs.
There is a term that should be familiar to everyone in law enforcement, that term is “Positional Asphyxiation”. I won’t go into detail, this is something you can look up on your own. Suffice it to say, merely being in this position makes it difficult to breath, notwithstanding, having someone pressing down on your torso.
The second factor is having someone with there knee and body weight on your neck. A knee on one side of your neck can compress the Carotid artery supplying blood to your brain ( there is one on either side of your neck). Continued compression of either artery cuts off oxygen supply to the brain and leads to unconsciousness or, death if applied long enough. Officers are trained to avoid strikes to the head and neck. Carotid hold have for some time, been elevated on the “Use of Force Scale” to that of “Deadly Force”.
Usually, any such strikes or, Carotid restraint will require medical treatment of the suspect and documentation by a supervisor (a thorough investigation including photos, videos, witness statements, Officer statements,etc).
As a retired 32 year veteran of a major Metropolitan Police Agency (Patrol Officer, Training Officer and Sergeant), I watched the video in horror and disgust. There was absolutely no justifiable reason for the actions and inaction of any of those offices on that scene. Officers are suppose to be experts in their field. An expert is someone who knows more than the average citizen.
There were citizens there who showed more care and concern for Mr. Floyd than the “expert” officers. That is doubly damning. There is no reason you will find in this incident. There is no rationalization that could make this acceptable.
What you witnessed in that video was a murder. Even after Mr. Floyd ceased moving, the officer continued placing pressure on his neck.
The other officers failed to take action to tell their partner to stop, which makes them equally responsible. Sadly, Mr Floyd is now dead. I pray the men that killed him suffer the full weight of the legal system. They betrayed their oaths, the community they swore to protect and every good officer across this country.
Sorry for the long post but, I am so damn mad. Oh, I thought of something that may help you understand what happened. Someone took a knee at a football game. That officer responded by taking a knee on that man’s neck.”
I don’t know whether this person is actually what he claims to be. But his words and his chain of reasoning appears to be sound, and it is worth listening to.
I will add a couple of my own comments.
In the video, as I’ve mentioned, there’s a conversation happening between the officers and the victim, where they tell him to get in the car. This while sitting on him, and knee to his neck. He was physically unable to move.
So why were they giving him orders that they were physically preventing him from complying? Simple. Police Audio recording system. Why would you create a false audio record that makes it sound like the victim is non-compliant, when you are preventing him from complying? Kind of a mystery. Unless you were trying to create a false trail to cover your ass. Was that what was happening? I don’t know. But the implications are disturbing.
There are elements of the officers initial report which are contradicted by the surveillance footage of security cameras. I believe that there is reason to be skeptical of the Officers statements or claims, both during and following the incident. There’s stuff here that doesn’t add up.
Also, note that the Asian Officer is actively preventing anyone from filming around the side of the car, concealing the other two officers involved in positional asphyxiation. This is disturbing.
I’m not and never was a police officer. But I’ve been a lawyer for thirty years. I’ve been a prosecutor, I’ve presided over inquests, I’ve dealt with the police on investigations. I don’t pretend to be an expert. But I am somewhat aware of standards of due diligence.
In the case of a potential homicide, the first thing you do is immediately contain the crime scene for recording and investigation. You don’t move the body until everything has been photographed and even then the position is marked. Blood spatter is marked. You immediately identify all witnesses on scene and you get statements from them as soon as possible. Not next month, not next week, right away, as fast as you can, while the experience is fresh. You requisition all video and audio, right away, police, civilian, commercial, and get copies of everything. You take it seriously.
There’s a caveat here which has been pointed out to me – in the case of a fresh body, Emergency Medical Technicians should, on arrival, immediately begin resuscitation efforts and remove the person to a place of treatment. Because sometimes you can save a life. I wondered if that was the case here. But watching the video, there’s a complete absence of any resuscitation attempts by either police or EMT, or even any effort to systematically check – they take a pulse, but there’s no pupil dilation check, no other checks, no CPR, no physical evaluation, no first aid or any measures on site. The actions of the EMT betray no urgency whatsoever. Maybe they went nuts with CPR and Oxygen inside the ambulance, but in the video, they are in no hurry at all. It’s pretty damned casual.
In a proper investigation, the officers are arrested, or at the very least cautioned. Grounds for an arrest are “probable cause.” That is very clear here. They are invited to make statements – separately. And they are kept apart and warned not to have contact with each other. On an arrest, that would be an immediate condition of recognisance.
I’ve heard defenses of not arresting the officers on the grounds that they weren’t flight risks and that they were unlikely to keep committing offenses. I’ve even heard the excuse that since they already had the opportunity to collaborate on their stories the cat was out of the bag so no use worrying about it. No. Just no. That’s not acceptable.
You don’t want them talking to each other or having opportunities to collaborate or collude. You don’t want them in the position to tamper with evidence. You don’t want them going to the Deli, for instance, and having conversations with the Deli owner to tell him what to say.
You investigate the incident from start to finish, you investigate any connections between the victim and the perpetrator. You investigate the backgrounds of everyone involved. You do this as a priority.
What you don’t do, is load the corpse onto a gurney and everyone walks away for donuts, and the officers involved are given days without supervision or restrictions to lawyer up and talk it over with each other, and potentially tamper with evidence and witnesses.
You don’t let the site become contaminated by bystanders. George was bleeding from the noise and appears to have voided his bladder. The vehicle he was against was moved. That’s just reckless and unprofessional.
You don’t just let witnesses wander off, and then maybe track them down days or weeks later to take statements. You can’t even guarantee that way that some of these people are actual witnesses, rather than people who weren’t there but just heard about it and want to talk. Memory is a fragile thing. You always conduct your interviews immediately or as soon as possible while it’s fresh and uncontaminated. Because days or weeks later, they’ve talked about it, they’ve watched video and news, they’ve heard from other witnesses. It becomes unreliable.
Remember the Michael Brown Jr. case? A key element in the proceedings of that case was multiple witnesses had different stories of what happened. In the end, the witness evidence was all considered unreliable, good witnesses and accurate evidence was thrown out with the bad. Reasonable doubt was created.
We may be seeing such sloppy witness handling that it literally creates reasonable doubt in a trial or materially undermines the prosecutions case, leading to acquittals or reduced charges.
Look, I can’t emphasise this enough. Investigation is not rocket science. It’s not art. It’s not casual. Investigations, particularly potential homicide investigations are serious, and meticulous and they’re urgent. There are checklists, there are manuals, and it’s not a matter of ‘the wheels of justice grind slow, so we’ll get around to it one of these days.’
I am not seeing any evidence of due diligence or professional conduct. Now, I don’t know the whole thing, but we are seeing some stuff, and in that stuff, we are not seeing what urgently needs to be there.
What I am seeing is evidence of appallingly sloppy and negligent police work which borders on deliberately screwing up the case. These officers may well escape justice, because of that.
Maybe there’s more than I’m seeing, and people have their asses together behind the scenes. But here’s the problem. I’m only seeing what everyone else is seeing, and to me that says sloppy, shoddy and negligent. I don’t know that there’s any reason to assume that the investigation is more competent behind the scenes.
And here’s the rub – whether people recognise it consciously, or are getting it intuitively, what people, what the public is seeing, is negligence. If you want the public to have faith in you, don’t mishandle and bungle up the investigation right in front of them. Don’t act like the Keystone Kops on weed.
Now before I move on, there have been a couple of things which have come to light, that I am really having trouble getting my head around.
One of these is the Officer Derek Chauvin, who had between 12 to 18 complaints against him for misconduct or brutality, including some that he was disciplined for, and was involved in as many as five shooting events. He also worked at a nightclub where he was known for excessive force. That makes this guy seem like bad knews, a violent rogue cop with a long track record, that no one seemed willing to do anything about. A guy like that has to have some kind of reputation, and yet none of the other three officers tried to get him to ease off. All of them supported and backed him. The Minneapolis Police backed him.
So much for ‘good cops hate bad cops.’ And so much for ‘just a few bad apples.’ You want to know about bad apples? Bad apples spoil the whole barrel, the entire barrel. A few bad apples, and the whole thing is ruined.
Officer Chauvin has finally been arrested, after five full days. I find that incredible. Five days? What the hell? Five days? Are we supposed to believe that there was such little urgency and so little evidence – despite a ten minute video of a man begging for his life, as Chauvin kneels on his neck? Five days? How is that not negligent? How can a homicide investigation be so utterly lazy and cavalier? It’s ludicrous.
And the other officers aren’t arrested at all, despite positional asphyxiation, despite simply permitting Chauvin to kneel on a carotid artery for ten minutes, despite ignoring cries for help, despite ignoring cries for bystanders, despite no resuscitation efforts? How are they not arrested? They may be. Eventually. But so what? We’re still looking at negligence.
Then, bizarrely there’s this factoid – Chauvin and George worked at the same nightclub. They had overlapping shifts. So they may have known each other, they may have met each other, they may have had prior history. We don’t know. We do know that they would have at a minimum had people in common. What the hell? Normally, competent investigators would be zooming in on that like an ICBM. Prior point of contact between victim and perpetrator? Oh yeah, you investigate the living hell out of that. In this case? This investigation? Who the hell knows?
The people who seem to be the most sanguine about this case, about any aspect of this case, seem to be the ones who are most ignorant, or the most racist. Not necessarily the same thing.
The ignorant are simply clueless. They mutter about ‘the wheels of justice turn slow, but good triumphs in the end’ like they’ve read too many Batman comics. They seem to be utterly oblivious to the basics of procedure. They aren’t bothered by negligence because ‘it all comes out right in the end, it’s on video right?’
Yeah, well, Rodney King was beaten to a pulp on video, and the officers that did it were all acquitted. So spare me the whole ‘wheels turn slow’ gitch.
The racists? Well, they’re racists. Hell with them.
But among professionals, among people who know how things are done or ought to be done, among prosecutors, lawyers, police officers and investigators, there seems to be considerable horror at how things have been handled. This seems really negligent. Disturbingly negligent. Maybe even deliberately negligent. Who knows.
And it doesn’t seem to be confined.
I find myself astonished at the profoundly incompetent response and handling of the police department and the city and state officials.
As I said, five whole days, to lay charges in an utterly egregious case? How incompetent do you have to be? How do you drop the ball like that?
Instead, we get mealy mouthed pronouncements like “Oh, it’s a mystery, we need to get to the bottom of this.” What? You think space aliens might have done it. We got the worst sort of vague, meaningless platitudes, as if people are stupid?
Let me ask a question: Imagine that you are a senior police officer, or a civic official or senior bureaucrat, and you’re not completely stupid. This incident happens. Do you think maybe there might be a demonstration? A risk of a demonstration? Public anger? Maybe even a riot?
Do you think that possibly, in the wake of a horrific ten minute torture-murder held before the public and distributed on social media, with watchers literally nauseaus, that maybe, possibly, hypothetically people might come out and demonstrate?
Is this predictable?
And you know, if it is, and you weren’t an idiot, but a person high up in in government or police, maybe it would be a good idea to get in front of it, to attempt to show some leadership, some pro-activity, to manage an urgent, volatile situation, so that doesn’t…. oh I don’t know… turn into a riot???
Or would you just sit there with your thumb up your ass, spouting mealy mouthed platitudes, while killers walked free, the investigation floundered like a drunk in a bathtub, and the demonstration degenerated?
Or hypothetically, if you were high up enough in government and police, where it was your job to think about these things, wouldn’t you be obliged to maybe anticipate the possibility of a riot? And maybe, theoretically, hypothetically, possibly, somehow, some way, put some sort of preparations in place to try and head it off, or at least minimize violence, and warn of property destruction?
As opposed to, you know, sitting with your thumb up your ass, and just reacting with tear gas and pepper bullets, arresting journalists, getting your police station burned down, and just generally fucking it up?
Because all this looks like negligence to me. Appalling, catastrophic, shameful incompetence and negligence every step of the way and at every level all the way to the top.
Maybe it’s not negligence. Maybe people are doing exactly the right things and are totally diligent and on top. But I don’t see it, it doesn’t look like that. So as far as I’m concerned, every single person up and down the chain needs to be put under a microscope with their every action and decision examined and justified. Because this is not acceptable. None of it is acceptable.
And once more – a bizarre interlude. There’s another video circulating online. This one is about a minute and a half. It starts off with some people mentioning that the police station is close by, perhaps line of sight. Then it focuses on this bizarre figure, a tall, athletically built, white man, dressed head to toe in black like a ninja, face covered with a respirator mask, carrying a black umbrella and a black packback, walking casually along the front of a target store, smashing windows with a hammer. WTF. He’s confronted by some demonstrators, but he continues to smash windows and then calmly walks away. Amazingly calm, he doesn’t run, he’s completely casual. Some of the demonstrators follow him, he’s asked if he’s police. At one point he confronts them, but then just walks away. Some people have tentatively identified him as a specific police officer, but the department this officer is with denies its him. The matter is open.
All this, practically within sight of police, who are presumably all over the place. Bizarre. There are other reports of similarly dressed men piling up pallets to set fires.
The video is the strangest thing. I encourage you to look it up. If it wasn’t up there, I wouldn’t have believed it.
The riot was triggered. It wasn’t spontaneous. Someone deliberately and meticulously set the fires, someone deliberately and meticulously broke the windows. They wore disguises, they had a specific mission or goal, and once accomplished, they walked away and disappeared. And the police were apparently nowhere for this? Arresting journalists or lobbing tear gas or something.
The right wing loons will blame Black Lives Matter and Antifa, apparently because of the well known ‘tall white ninja’ contingent in the BLM movement, and because Antifa is an international multi-billion dollar conspiracy which keeps its headquarters in a hollowed out volcano, rather than some teenagers with attitude.
Many black people believe that this is a police operation, in part because the police have a history of this kind of stunt – you can look up the FBI’s COINTELPRO program for instance. And because of their perception that the Police are actively at war with black people, and continually harass and abuse them.
This isn’t an unfounded perception. Every black person has anecdotal stories of the police, and few of them are good. Statistical surveys of the Justice system and of police and police attitudes show a consistent pattern of racism. It’s there. And there’s reason to believe it may be particularly bad in Minneapolis – thirty unarmed persons have been killed in Minneapolis by police in the last twenty years.
In the Rodney King case, many years ago, the black community waited patiently for justice to be done. They waited through the investigations, through the trial, right up to the verdict. They had faith in the system. They had faith in justice.
Not this time. The black community has clearly shown it’s utter lack of faith or belief in the Justice System. Over the last few decades, they’ve been given a lot of reasons not to have faith. And particularly in this case, it has been such an appalling obvious case of horrific sadistic murder, so callously handled, so colossally mismanaged and incompetent and negligent that nobody should have any faith.